When talking about a death so senseless, so unnecessary, so... Darwin Award worthy as that of 47-year-old Walter Eagle Tail "“ who passed away during a 4th of July hot dog eating contest in South Dakota last week having choked on a wiener mid competition "“ I can't help but quote Louis CK in saying, "Of Course...But maybe..."
Of course this man's untimely death is tragic. Of course I'm sad for Eagle Tail, who was just trying to have a bit of Independence Day fun. Of course my heart goes out to his friends and family who now have cope with the loss of a loved one "“ knowing he died so very needlessly. Of course what happened to Eagle Tail is terrible and unfair.
But maybe...maybe if this country didn't equate its annual celebration of patriotism and independence with grotesque displays of overeating, Eagle Tail would have entered a relay race last week instead. Maybe if we lived in a culture that didn't promote dangerous overindulgence as a way of life, Eagle Tail would still be with us. And maybe if Americans didn't equate binge eating with liberty, or shameless gluttony with national identity, Eagle Tail would have never met such an indignant end.
I'm just going to go ahead and say it"”America killed Eagle Tail. We, as a society, have blood on our hands and should be held accountable for his death.
It's time to put an end to the glorification of deadly eating habits"”and not just on the 4th of July, but in general. Surely there are other ways for Americans to exercise freedom besides scarfing down super-sized value meals and stuffed-crust double-decker pizzas in what I can only assume is an attempt send the "don't tread on me" message to their own oppressive bodies.
It's not like Eagle Tail is the first victim of our culture's "patriotic" allegiance to unabashed food worship. Hundreds of thousands of Americans die every year from diabetes, heart disease and other obesity-related complications. The fact that obesity rates continue to increase nationwide, despite the government's best efforts to raise awareness about what is now considered to be an epidemic, indicates that U.S citizens would rather sacrifice their health than accept the idea of moderate food consumption.
The fact that we still encourage overeating via frequent hot dog, pie, or other eating contests further proves that, upon realizing how fat we are, this society has decided to just embrace gluttony instead of doing something about it. I mean, really. The audacity to still hold eating contests that celebrate binge eating as a talent, in an age when more children are being diagnosed as dangerously overweight than ever before, feels like Americans are actually trying to own how fat they are at this point.
And this is why America has become the butt of every other country's joke. This is why Americans are believed to be fat, dumb and lazy. When I travel, I do my best to defend the U.S against such prejudice. I explain that sweeping generalizations aren't fair, and that there are, in fact, plenty of healthy, smart and hardworking people living here as well. But it's stories like that of Eagle Tail's death "“ which, let's be honest, sounds like a cartoonish-ly stereotypical demise at the hands of first-world greed "“ that make it really difficult dissuade anyone of their preconceived notions about American culture.